The RPG genre has risen from the dead in recent months, with the
release of such hot titles as Darkstone and Baldur's Gate, and
there's a slew of promising RPG games just waiting on the horizon.
It's not uncommon to hear many of these titles being compared to
the likes of Diablo, after all it could be argued that Diablo
awakened what was a dorment genre at the time. For example,
the Gathering of Developers' RPG Darkstone is commonly
described as a Diablo clone. So it comes to no surprise that many
are calling Strategy First's new RPG, Clans, a Diablo clone.
Nothing could be further from the truth though. Clans is a
role-playing action / adventure title that sets itself apart from the
crowd with it's interesting and strong puzzle element. A bit of an
odd mix that strikes well at times but ultimately left me wanting
more gameplay and a new mouse.
Clans opens with an excellent introductory movie that foretells a
typical fantasy storyline. The legend goes a little something like
Four Clans, living in harmony, were disturbed one day when the
sun failed to rise. Darkness fell over the land as an evil Demon
appeared from the sky. Along with his minions, the Demon spread
terror through the land and turned the Clans against one another.
The Elders, sorcerers, shamans, and healers from each of the
Clans, met beneath the smoldering earth and forged the Crown of
Peace. Under it's enchanted influence, the Clans were bound
together and the Demon was vanquished. Many years advanced
and as the Elders passed on, the Demon and his minions returned
to the land. Happiness has once again turned to hatred and the
Clans are at war once more. It is up to a chosen warrior, from each
of the Clans, to find the Crown of Peace and destroy the Demon
You play one of four available heroes, as you set off to defeat the
Demon. You can choose to play as either a warrior, an elf, a dwarf,
or a barbarian. The warrior features a balance of combat and
magical skills, while the elf uses magic to fight. The dwarf is
master of the axe yet still excels in the art of spellcasting. The
barbarian uses bruth force and strength to conquer obstacles and
is untrained in the art of magic. The first gripe I noticed was that
early in the game, when magic was unavailable, it was extremely
difficult to advance using the elf. Good weapon combat skills are
essential until you find magical scrolls.
It's important to note that Clans is not your typical RPG. For
example, you do not accumulate experience points in order to
change skill levels. Attributes, such as agility and strength, are
increased by obtaining objects and magical potions during the
game. Also, Clans is limited in the number of items you can find.
For instance, you won't see a slew of weapons or magical spells at
your disposal. In fact, there are only 5 different spells that you can
use in the game. Clans is a fantasy-based action / adventure where
combat, exploration and puzzle solving are the ingredients. While
that might seem like it's limiting the game, it does make for some
strong points as well.
There are seven levels in the world of Clans. Your adventure starts
at the castle gates and proceeds ever deeper into the heart of the
Demon's lair. The world consists of a series of screens or rooms
(unlike the scrolling view commonly found in games) that you
navigate through by clicking on arrows located at different points
in each screen. Hence, the action is centered to the geographical
location you assume, and nothing further. However, creatures that
you encounter in one screen will chase after you from screen to
screen until you confront them, meaning if you see a creature you
don't think you can kill, you can't just move back a screen and
hope it'll disappear. This type of gameplay is certainly not new but
it is limiting in many ways. You can't see what's slightly ahead of
you or behind you without actually moving forward or back a
Combat is in real time and it's here that one would certainly see
the comparisons to Diablo. Fighting is heavy on mouse clicking
and can become a pain after awhile. It didn't work in Diablo and it
certainly doesn't work here either. There's very little strategy in
combat either due to the lack of defensive positions one can take.
The creature that swings it's weapon most will undoubtedly be
victorious. Spells do add spice to combat, but I stated before there
are only five of them in total. Fireball, Explosion, Confusion,
Lightning Bolt, and Meteor Rain are the spells and each has five
different levels of power. You bump up the power of spells by
finding scrolls of the same spell type and combining them. I would
have certainly preferred more spells in the game rather than
different levels of power for each spell. There's a nice variety of
creatutes to encounter as well, including goblins, orcs, elfs and
mages. Interestingly enough, if you encounter two different kinds
of creatures in a particular screen, they occasionally fight amongst
themselves, making your job a little easier.
The levels are fairly short in length but each features a set of
puzzles you have to solve in order to advance to the next realm.
The puzzles range from intelligent to tedious. For example, the
first level features a puzzle in which you have to move a set of
barrels in order to open a door. That particular puzzle requires a
little thought process to complete. On the other hand, a second
puzzle consists of flipping a series of levers until you find the right
combination to open a particular door. In this case, the puzzle is
nothing more than an exercise in math. It's just a matter of trying
each combination until you find the right one. I don't know if that
qualifies as a puzzle, but it was frustrating none the less.
The graphics in Clans range from compelling to not-so-good. The
environments, at times, were extremely well done. At other times,
especially in the lava level, they were uninteresting to look at. The
characters and creatures are all well animated and the spell
effects were very nice as well. When looking at the screenshots,
you might compare the graphics to the likes of Diablo. There
seems to be more detail in the graphics for Diablo, but Clans is in
no way unpleasant to look at. Neither take advantage of 3D
accelerators, but they both get the job done.
The sound in Clans is a mixed bag (I love that term). The sound
effects vary from swords clashing to trees falling. They don't really
strike a blow for the game, but they don't hurt the game either.
Clans features several voice effects from the character you control,
the creatures you're attacking and the NPC's you encounter. Each
creature seems to have a little something to say to you before they
attack, and your character constantly has something to say upon
killing them. Sayings like 'Hey, I'm not done with you yet' seem
misplaced at times, especially when it's said after the creatures
already dead. NPC voices are the best of the bunch, using that
medieval accent that is so pleasant to listen too.
The interface is simple and easy to use. Keyboard shortcuts allow
you to switch weapons and cast spells with the simple press of a
button, and you can drink potions on the fly by pressing the
spacebar. Automapping was well done as well as you can see
exactly where you've been and where you'd like to go at the click
of your mouse. You can also highlight rooms that you want to visit
again in the future so you don't get lost so easily. Clans does not
feature any multiplayer options.
I'm not a fan of Diablo. In fact, I thought it was one of the worst
RPG titles I've ever played. It couldn't hold my attention for more
than 2 minutes because it was the most repetitive gaming
experience I, and my mouse, had ever been through. (Admittedly,
I'm the minority when I say that) So when I heard Clans was a
Diablo clone, that didn't bode well for it. Lucky for me, and Clans,
it's not quite in the Diablo class. Clans doesn't come with a lot of
fanfare, so it certainly qualifies as a 'sleeper of the year'
candidate. It's not extremely complicated and it shouldn't be
expected to produce a true RPG experience. It should be expected
to give your mouse a workout and it could definitely use some
gameplay tweaks. That aside, Clans is a role-playing action /
adventure game that uses puzzle elements to produce a genuine